Frank “Frankie Shots” Abbatemarco had no idea when he left his favorite watering hole at 8 p.m. on Nov 4, 1959 that he was walking into an ambush.
Frankie Shots was born in 1899 and grew up in Red Hook Brooklyn with the Gallo family. Not much is known about his early childhood, but by the late 1920s, Abbatemarco had been arrested several times and spent a couple of years in prison on a narcotics rap.
By the early 1930s, Abbatemarco was running numbers for the newly appointed boss of Brooklyn, Joseph Profaci and he was a huge success. Each week Abbatemarco kicked up thousands of dollars to the boss of the family.
By the late 1940s and early 1950s Abbatemarco had risen in the Profaci crime family (now the Colombo crime family) to the level of captain and one of the largest earners in the family and certainly in the South Brooklyn numbers rackets. Abbatemarco and his crew pulled in $2.5 million a year, nearly $7000 a day at its peak.
By the late 1950s, Profaci’s tribute demands were causing an uproar among the Profaci crime family members. As customary, captains and their crew kicked up a portion of their earnings that eventually reached the boss of the family. However, Profaci’s demands were becoming excessive and many of the members of the family had begun to resent the tribute payments. The tipping point came when Profaci added a $25 monthly tribute from each member of the family to be paid directly to him.
The Profaci crime family crew leaders saw this as a slap in the face and just another way for Profaci to fund his extravagant lifestyle with mansions in Florida and New Jersey.
One of the first crews to stand up against this latest tribute was the Joe Gallo crew led by the infamous Crazy Joe Gallo.
In the beginning of 1959, Gallo and his crew began denying tribute payments to Profaci. Around that time Abbatemarco’s rackets had begun to falter due to several law enforcement raids. When he was approached by Gallo to begin denying the tributes, Abbatemarco saw an opportunity to catch up and thus agreed to stop payment for a short time. After all, until that point no one had been killed for not kicking up payment under protest.
By October of 1959, Abbatemarco’s “back taxes” or late tributes had amassed to $50,000, yet Gallo had convinced Abbatemarco to stand his ground under the relentless effort to pay up from Profaci.
It turned out to be very bad advice.
On the night of Novemeber 4, 1959, Abbatemarco pulled open the front door of Cardiello’s Tavern, a saloon owned by his cousin, and was met by two armed men dressed in topcoats and fedoras. The front glass of the tavern shattered as bullets began to fly.
Abbatemarco stumbled back after being hit at least once, turned and ran back into the tavern for cover. The two men pursued while continuing to fire and unloaded six more shots into Abbatemarco before escaping. Abbatemarco died on the saloon floor.
With Abbatemarco’s murder, thus began a series of kidnappings on the part of Gallo in retaliation of the Abbatemarco murder and eventually the Profaci-Gallo war that would last until Profaci’s death on June 6, 1962 after succumbing to liver cancer.